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“It was a perfect fit,” says longtime Denver restaurant advisor John Imbergamo of the 2008 deal that kept Annie’s Cafe from disappearing. As of 1981, Annie’s had been serving home-style cooking in a location near Colorado Boulevard on East Eighth Avenue, but in 2007 the landlord announced that the building would be demolished and replaced with a Marriott hotel (which was never realized – Trader Joe’s occupied now the property).
Unsure of how to proceed, owner Peggy Anderson and then co-owner Diane Williams visited Racines in hopes of meeting owners David Racine and Lee Goodfriend, who were in a similar situation when a demolition clause forced the restaurant to move in 2002 .
It turned out that this impromptu meeting resulted in an offering that lives on in Denver restaurant history. “It was a great story because one group of long-time iconic restaurateurs helped another group of long-time iconic restaurateurs,” explains Imbergamo. Almost thirty years earlier, Racine and Goodfriend had opened their first restaurant, Goodfriends, at 3100 East Colfax Avenue – but they were now planning to close Goodfriends due to rising food and gasoline prices.
“We didn’t know …” says Goodfriend, reflecting on the difficulties restaurants have faced since then. But the impending closure offered an opportunity: Racine and Goodfriend offered to let Annie’s room at Colfax take over. “It was nice selling to two women,” notes Goodfriend.
Annie acquired a liquor license while moving from Colorado Boulevard to Colfax Avenue.
And so Annie moved from Colorado Boulevard to Colfax in 2008 and inherited a liquor license (which the original Annie’s location lacked) along with a collection of retro tin lunch boxes and lots of memories. This week the restaurant is celebrating its 40th anniversary, a rare achievement in an industry in which many have been around for less than a decade.
“David and I went there last month,” Goodfriend says of Annie’s. “It looks a little different, but we enjoy visiting and the food is really good.”
Peggy Anderson still owns Annie’s and her sister Mary Meggitt has run the place since it opened. It remains a favorite for all-day breakfast, home cooking, and cocktails. “It’s nostalgic. Families grew up in these restaurants and the kids keep doing it,” Goodfriend reflects, referring to Annie’s and her own now closed trio of Denver classics: Goodfriends, Dixon’s Downtown Grill and Racines, which closed in 2020 When the pandemic accelerated retirement plans and a sale of the building.
But Annie’s sticks out to celebrate forty years and to thank the regulars for their support, the restaurant is hosting an anniversary reception on June 9 from 11am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm with free snacks and drinks and live music Eve.
“Last year has been so tough. We got corned beef and cabbage out of our ears when we had to close on Saint Patrick’s Day,” says Meggitt, recalling the restaurant’s initial closure on March 17, 2020. But Annie did it , and now employees are wearing “I got my COVID-19 vaccination” buttons on their shirts instead of masks on their faces.
“We’re just so grateful,” Meggitt concludes, “and we’re ready to celebrate.”
Annie’s Cafe is located at 3100 East Colfax Avenue and is open Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information call 303-355-8197 or visit the annies-cafe. com.
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Molly Martin is the editor of Westword Food & Drink. She has been writing about the Denver dining scene since 2013 and has been eating her way around town long before that.